In a postmodern culinary world where deconstruction of the classics and molecular gastronomy bleed wallets dry, easy and reliable eateries have become unspoken treasures. Like the perfect white t-shirt or a comfortable leather booth, places that boast simple yet scrumptious menus don’t come often enough. But look no further for quality, wallet-friendly food than Yuko Kitchen, which has perfected Japanese homemade comfort food. The restaurant stands in contrast to the extensive, expensive sushi scene of Los Angeles, serving as “Japanese food you don’t get tired of,” owner Yuko affirms. “Nobody can eat sushi everyday,” due to it’s high price tag, “but our food is financially sustainable, fresh, and eatable everyday,” Yuko explains.
Yuko drew upon her mother’s recipes from her childhood in Japan when creating her menu, but added her own unique Californian twist. Having grown up in the Japanese countryside, the young owner specifically sought a space that seamlessly integrated indoors and outdoors. Subsequently, the downtown location consists of giant windows overlooking the patio sprawling with different flora. “I wanted the effect to be a greenhouse, somewhat of a cozy jungle,” describes Yuko. Her own striking murals also adorn the restaurant’s interior walls, making the space heartwarmingly personal.
As for the actual menu, fan favorites include the signature sweet mint lemonade, which is ice blended with a handful of pressed mint leaves. Also popular is the chicken plate special, which comes with a bit of everything – teriyaki chicken, rice, salad with homemade carrot dressing, side soup, a spicy salmon roll and an assortment of cookies — “a happy meal for adults,” Yuko quips. There’s also a bakery aspect to the restaurant, with coffee, teas, and baked goods for eaters on the go (including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free offerings). There’s also a happy hour from 4 to 5 PM every day, with all cocktails going for a tempting three bucks. “In a month we plan to expand our happy hour menu with smaller, cheaper plates to share,” Yuko elaborates.
Unlike most Japanese restaurants, patrons leave Yuko’s unique eatery with full wallets and full bellies. Although it may hail from the Eastern world, no matter where you’re from, you’ll find a little taste of home at Yuko Kitchen.
Written by Lucy Rogers-Ciaffa
Photographed by Eric Cacioppo